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Fermented Soy Research

May 23, 2013 Written by JP    [Font too small?]

Twitter is one of the mediums I use to spread the good word about evidence-based natural medicine. There, I’ve had the distinct pleasure of meeting people from all corners of the globe who share an interest in holistic healing. Recently, I was contacted via Twitter by Dr. Han Bok Kim of Hoseo University in South Korea. In our correspondence he was kind enough to share his ongoing research on Chungkookjang (CKJ), a fermented soybean extract that is well known in Korea, but relatively unheard of in the United States and elsewhere.

Thus far, the published studies on Chungkookjang in which Dr. Kim has been involved have focused on in vitro or test tube models. In one of the experiments, CKJ was shown to beneficially affect inflammatory signaling pathways which are known to contribute to breast cancer risk. In another study, this particular form of fermented soy demonstrated an ability to support immunity by protecting spleen and thymus cells from premature death. Other scientists have conducted trials on Chungkookjang using animal and human subjects. To date, the results indicate that CKJ promotes natural killer cell mediated antitumor activity and may reduce the risk of heart disease by lowering apoliprotein B and visceral fat in overweight individuals. And, currently, a study is underway in Korea to assess whether CKJ may be useful in patients with allergic skin conditions involving inflammation.

Other varieties of traditional, fermented soy foods have likewise shown promise in the medical literature. Over the past few years alone, intake of fermented soybeans has been linked to: a) healthier hormonal and lipid profiles (higher progesterone and lower cholesterol) in postmenopausal women; b) a decrease in body fat and enhanced fat burning potential or “elevated lipolysis” in overweight men and women; c) improved microbiota levels in the gut characterized by a larger populations of good bacteria (bifidobacteria and lactobacilli) and a decline in the number of pathogenic clostridia; d) greater insulin sensitivity and less oxidative stress – favorable risk markers for diabetes, heart disease and metabolic syndrome.

There are several theories about why fermented soy appears to support health on numerous fronts. One possibility is that fermentation renders certain phytochemicals, naturally found in soy, more bioavailable. Evidence for this can be found in the March 2011 issue of the Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture. In it, researchers discovered that isoflavones contained in fermented soy were significantly better absorbed than those present in unfermented soybeans. Isoflavones are believed to be responsible for many of the health benefits attributed to soy consumption. As a bonus, fermented soy is often better tolerated by those who have a difficult time digesting non-fermented soy.

Note: Please check out the “Comments & Updates” section of this blog – at the bottom of the page. You can find the latest research about this topic there!

To learn more about the studies referenced in today’s column, please click on the following links:

Study 1 – Inflammation-Related Signaling Pathways Implicating TGFβ (link)

Study 2 – Ethanol Extract of Fermented Soybean, Chungkookjang, Inhibits (link)

Study 3 – Oral Administration of High Molecular Mass Poly-γ-Glutamate (link)

Study 4 – Effects of Chungkookjang Supplementation on Obesity & Atherosclerotic … (link)

Study 5 – Influence of the Chungkookjang on Histamine-Induced Wheal & Flare … (link)

Study 6 – Effects of Dietary Traditional Fermented Soybean on Reproductive (link)

Study 7 – Supplementation of Korean Fermented Soy Paste Doenjang Reduces (link)

Study 8 – Effects of Non-Fermented and Fermented Soybean Milk Intake on Faecal (link)

Study 9 – Natto and Viscous Vegetables in a Japanese-Style Breakfast Improved (link)

Study 10 – Higher Bioavailability of Isoflavones After a Single Ingestion of (link)

The Many Faces of Soy

Source: Lymphat Res Biol. 2010 Mar;8(1):89-98. (link)

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Posted in Diet and Weight Loss, Food and Drink, Heart Health

7 Comments & Updates to “Fermented Soy Research”

  1. Linda Huthmaker Says:

    I am interested in the “fermented soy survey” open to those over 55, without heart disease or diabetes.

  2. JP Says:

    Hi, Linda.

    Please tell us more about this. Thank you!

    Be well!


  3. JP Says:

    Update 05/25/15:

    http://www.jmb.or.kr/journal/viewJournal.html?doi=10.4014/jmb.1411.11076 (Full Text PDF available as well via download)

    J Microbiol Biotechnol. 2015 Mar;25(3):407-12.

    In vivo hair growth promotion effects of ultra-high molecular weight poly-γ-glutamic acid from Bacillus subtilis (Chungkookjang).

    We investigated the effect of ultra-high molecular weight poly-γ-glutamic acid (UHMW γ-PGA) on hair loss in vitro and in vivo. 5-Alpha reductase is an enzyme that metabolizes the male hormone testosterone into dihydrotestosterone. By performing an in vitro experiment to analyze the inhibitory effects of UHMW γ-PGA on 5-alpha reductase activity, we determined that UHMW γ-PGA did in fact inhibit 5-alpha reductase activity, indicating the use of UHMW γ-PGA as a potential 5-alpha reductase inhibitor in the treatment of men with androgenetic alopecia. To evaluate the promotion of hair growth in vivo, we topically applied UHMW γ-PGA and minoxidil on the shaved dorsal skin of telogenic C57BL/6 mice for 4 weeks. At 4 weeks, the groups treated with UHMW γ-PGA showed hair growth on more than 50% of the shaved skin, whereas the control group showed less hair growth. To investigate the progression of hair follicles in the hair cycle, hematoxylin and eosin staining was performed. Histological observations revealed that the appearance of hair follicles was earlier in the UHMW γ-PGA-treated group than in the control group. The number of hair follicles on the relative area of shaved skin in the UHMW γ-PGA-treated group was higher than that observed on the shaved skin in the control group. These results indicate that UHMW γ-PGA can promote hair growth by effectively inducing the anagen phase in telogenic C57BL/6 mice.

    Be well!


  4. JP Says:

    Update 07/11/15:


    Int J Mol Sci. 2015 May 13;16(5):10907-20.

    Possibility of breast cancer prevention: use of soy isoflavones and fermented soy beverage produced using probiotics.

    The various beneficial effects of soybeans, which are rich in phytochemicals, have received much attention because of increasing health awareness. Soy milk that has been fermented using lactic acid bacteria has been used to prepare cheese-like products, tofu (bean-curd), and yogurt-type products. However, the distinct odor of soybeans has limited the acceptance of such foods, particularly in Western countries. In Japan, while tofu and soy milk have long been habitually consumed, the development of novel, palatable food products has not been easy. The unpleasant odor of soy milk and the absorption efficiency for isoflavones can be improved using a recently developed fermented soy milk beverage. Cancer has been the leading cause of death, and breast cancer is the most common malignancy among women. The most common type of breast cancer is estrogen-dependent, and the anti-estrogenic effects of isoflavones are known. The present review focuses on the characteristics of soy milk fermented using probiotics, an epidemiological study examining the incidence of breast cancer and soy isoflavone consumption, and a non-clinical study examining breast cancer prevention using fermented soy milk beverage.

    Be well!


  5. JP Says:

    Update 07/11/15:


    Allergol Int. 2014 Jun;63(2):261-6.

    Maternal intake of Natto, a Japan’s traditional fermented soybean food, during pregnancy and the risk of eczema in Japanese babies.

    BACKGROUND: There are reports that the maternal diet during pregnancy may affect development of babies’ eczema. We sought to investigate the association between the maternal diet during pregnancy and the risk of eczema in infancy in Japan.

    METHODS: A birth cohort was set up at 2 hospitals in Chiba city. Dietary habits concerning fish, butter, margarine, yogurt and natto during pregnancy was obtained from mothers just after delivery. The intake frequencies of these foods were classified into four groups: 1) daily, 2) 2-3 times a week, 3) once a week and 4) once a month or less. Diagnosis of eczema at 6 months of age was made by the presence of an itchy rash that persisted more than two months.

    RESULTS: Valid data on 650 mother-baby pairs were obtained. No relationship between frequencies of the maternal intake of fish, margarine and yogurt during pregnancy and the onset rate of the babies’ eczema were observed. For butter consumption, the incidence of babies’ eczema was significantly higher in the group with daily intake than in those with an intake 2-3 times a week or less (p = 0.044). For natto, incidence of babies’ eczema was significantly lower in the group with everyday intake than those eating it 2-3 times a week or less (p = 0.020).

    CONCLUSIONS: High frequency intake of natto during pregnancy possibly reduces the incidence of eczema in children at 6 months of age.

    Be well!


  6. JP Says:

    Updated 06/15/16:


    European Journal of Clinical Nutrition advance online publication 15 June 2016

    Korean traditional Chungkookjang improves body composition, lipid profiles and atherogenic indices in overweight/obese subjects: a double-blind, randomized, crossover, placebo-controlled clinical trial

    Background/objectives: Chungkookjang is a Korean representative fermented soybean food. In this study, we investigated the effect of Korean traditional Chungkookjang compared with placebo on body composition, dyslipidemia and risk factors for atherosclerosis in overweight/obese subjects.

    Subjects/methods: This double-blind, randomized, controlled crossover trial was conducted on 120 overweight/obese subjects, aged 19–29 years. Subjects were randomly divided into a Chungkookjang (n=60) or a placebo (n=60) group. After 12 weeks, the groups were crossed over for an additional 12 weeks. During the intervention period, subjects were asked to maintain their usual diet and activity and not to take any functional foods or dietary supplements. The anthropometric measures, lipid profiles and atherogenic indices were determined at baseline and at the end of each 12-week period.

    Results: The anthropometry measurements, percentage body fat, lean body mass, waist circumference and waist-to-hip ratio of women in the Chungkookjang group were significantly improved compared with the placebo group. Lipid profiles and high-sensitivity C-reactive protein of women in Chungkookjang were significantly improved. The atherogenic indices of apolipoprotein B/apolipoprotein A1 decreased in both the placebo and the Chungkookjang group, and it also decreased below 0.55 for all the men and women in the Chungkookjang group.

    Conclusions: In conclusion, these results suggest that supplementation with Chungkookjang may improve body composition and risk factors for cardiovascular disease in overweight and obese adults.

    Be well!


  7. JP Says:

    Updated 09/27/16:


    J Atheroscler Thromb. 2016 Sep 21.

    Effects of a Japan Diet Intake Program on Metabolic Parameters in Middle-Aged Men: A Pilot Study.

    AIM: We conducted a pilot study to clarify the effects of the Japan Diet nutritional education program on metabolic risk factors for atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease in middle-aged men who were brought up in the westernized dietary environment of modern Japan.

    METHODS: Thirty-three men, 30-49 years of age, attended a nutrition education class to learn food items and recommended volumes comprising the Japan Diet (more fish, soybeans and soy products, vegetables, seaweed, mushrooms and unrefined cereals, and less animal fat, meat and poultry with fat, sweets, desserts and snacks, and alcoholic drinks), and were encouraged to consume the Japan Diet for 6 weeks. Anthropometric and biochemical parameters were measured and 3-day weighted dietary records were kept before and at completion of the intervention.

    RESULTS: Ninety-one percent of participants showed improvements in more than one cardiovascular risk factor after 6 weeks. Body weight, serum low density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, malondialdehyde modified (MDA)-LDL and triglyceride concentrations decreased significantly, while high density lipoprotein cholesterol was unchanged. Fish, soy, and sum of seaweed, mushrooms and konjak intakes doubled, and green and yellow vegetable intakes also increased as compared to baseline. Meanwhile, intakes of refined cereals, meat and poultry, sweets, desserts and snacks, and margarine and shortening decreased. Total energy, lipid, and saturated and monounsaturated fatty acid intakes decreased, while n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid, dietary fiber, beta-carotene, vitamins D and K, potassium, and magnesium increased, with no change in sodium intake.

    CONCLUSIONS: The Japan Diet is suggested to improve atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease risk factors in middle-aged Japanese men.

    Be well!


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